Quality vs Quantity


How important is it to be prolific?

For some, one great novel is enough. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is an obvious example. But if you are writing as a career, just one novel isn’t going to put food on the table. What then? Should everything you write be considered a masterpiece?

Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton were both hugely prolific. Was everything they wrote gold? No, but some of it was. I wonder just how much of the great stuff would have emerged had they not been as prolific (and therefore practiced) as they were. Although they both enjoyed writing, they wrote for a living, to survive. William Shakespeare was the same. He churned out play after play to pay the bills.

No-one argues the greatness of Shakespeare, but I despair of the snobby attitude some display towards Blyton and Christie – not just because they wrote genre fiction, but because they churned it out so regularly. Personally, I consider Five goes to Smuggler’s Top (Blyton) and Murder on the Orient Express (Christie) amongst the best books ever written.

Obviously all writers are different. Some have a sparser body of work, others write more. But being prolific does have one big advantage: whatever your successes or failures, you continually improve as a writer.

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